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Age at the Time of Exposure to Trauma Modulates the Psychopathological Profile in Patients With Early Psychosis

J Clin Psychiatry 2016;77(5):e612–e618
10.4088/JCP.15m09947

Objective: To examine the potential differential impact of childhood trauma, according to the age at the time of exposure, on the psychopathological profile of patients with early psychosis treated in a specialized 3-year program during the early phase of the disease.

Methods: 196 subjects with early psychosis aged 18–35 years were followed up prospectively over 36 months of treatment between 2004 and 2010. Patients who had faced at least 1 experience of abuse (physical, sexual, or emotional) or neglect (physical or emotional) were classified according to age at the time of the first exposure (early trauma: before 12 years of age; late trauma: from age 12 through 16 years) and then compared with unexposed patients (nontrauma). The level of symptoms was assessed using the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale, the Young Mania Rating Scale, and the Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale.

Results: Exposure to 1 or more forms of trauma before 16 years of age was present in 31.63% of patients. Comparisons over the 3 years of treatment with the nontrauma patients revealed that (1) patients with early trauma showed consistently higher levels of positive (P = .006), depressive (P = .001), manic (P = .006), and negative (P = .029) symptoms and (2) patients with late trauma showed only more negative symptoms (P = .029).

Conclusions: These results suggest that the age at the time of exposure to trauma has a modulating effect on symptoms in patients with early psychosis. Various biological and psychological hypotheses can be proposed to explain this observation, and they need to be investigated in an experimental setting in order to develop therapeutic avenues.

Abstract